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The Hardest Exam You’ve Never Heard of

By Joseph Hernandez | September 10, 2012

Photo: prayitno

Think being a sommelier is all about drinking wine, walking through vineyards and popping corks for giggles? Think again.

In an upcoming documentary delving into a world heretofore seen as “snobby,”–or at the very least, exclusive–the film Somm follows four would-be sommeliers as they test (and taste) their way through the rigorous demands of the Court of Master Sommeliers, one of the highest governing and certificate-granting bodies within the wine industry. To put it into perspective, there are 111 Master Sommeliers in America, while only 197 people in the world have earned the distinction since the organization’s founding in 1977.

Those willing to embark on the journey to Master Sommelier have their work cut out for them. Besides knowing wine inside and out (every region in which it is grown; the ability to taste nuances and name the varietal, vintage, appellation and chemical make-up blindly), candidates must also be fluent in spirits, food service, cigars and glassware. The amount of knowledge a Master Sommelier must retain is boggling; it’s no wonder the exam has only a 10% pass rate.

With Somm, expect the full range of the human experience: Tears, hubris, hours of studying, fear, braggadoccio. For these four candidate, it’s no surprise tensions run high. One person interviewed in the documentary said, “I cried when my parents died. I cried when my children were born. The only other time I’ve cried in my life was when I passed this exam.”

Who passes, and who fails? Find out when the movie premieres November 7 at, appropriately enough, the Napa Valley Film Festival. Check out the trailer below:

SOMM Documentary premiere teaser trailer, opening documentary at the 2012 Napa Valley Film Festival from Forgotten Man Films on Vimeo.

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